If someone asked me what my favourite goal was, I wouldn’t have to think twice. Thierry Henry, vs. Leeds, January 2012. There have been more bombastic, more flamboyant, more decisive goals scored, sure, but when Henry slipped the ball in the bottom corner at The Emirates, the sound that followed was like nothing I’d ever heard before – it was the sound of every Arsenal fan in the entire world’s dream coming true. That’s why it will always be my favourite goal.
I feel in recent years Arsenal fans have forgotten how good we are, how rich and incredible our history is, our recent history for that. Everyone goes on about the 7 year trophy absence, as if it’s some gigantic length of time, as if we’ve fallen into mid-table mediocrity, as if our style of football has waned beyond belief. It’s bullsh*t, and it’s symptomatic of success attracting new supporters whose sense of entitlement gives them a very cavalier attitude to supporting a football team – booing bad performances, calling for Wenger’s head; this stuff didn’t happen 7 years ago. It shouldn’t be happening now.
That’s why Thierry Henry is so important for us. He is the last remaining invincible, arguably the most important member of that team, so legendary that he is now immortalised outside the stadium. Kids will grow up watching videos of him as I grew up watching videos of Alan Smith and Kevin Campbell, and the Arsenal side of the late 80s. Chuckle though you might at those names now, when you’re a kid and you’re watching them score 20 goals a season, they’re heroes, and so were the Invincibles. That was Wenger’s team remember, a squad of players moulded in his image, where the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Our defence may have been shaky at times this season, our sharp edged blunted somewhat by the loss of Van Persie, but as a team, some performances this year have been better than I’ve seen for a long time, especially considering the amount of new blood that’s being brought through – not just Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud, but also the returning duo of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby and developing players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs. Simply put, this squad is good enough to win the league, and if they have that belief from the fans then it’s only a matter of time.
So with this in mind, why wouldn’t you want Henry to return? Last year his arrival was like a breath of fresh air, a lift to the whole club, particularly the young players. Think of how much Olivier Giroud will benefit from working with Henry on a day-to-day basis, or how much Carl Jenkinson will learn having to defend against him in training. Thierry Henry may have lost a decent amount of pace, but he wasn’t just quick, he had a brain. Henry could read the game better than any striker in the modern era, and that doesn’t go away. Plus, if he can still do this then y’know, he ain’t half bad.
Of course there’ll be those who’ll say Arsenal need to move on, who’ll say we’re resting on our laurels, who’ll say that bringing a veteran striker in for two months is a sign of desperation. I can’t argue with those people, because I simply don’t understand them. Henry could come back and play centre half for all I care, and he’d probably work harder than William Gallas ever did when he was captaining our side wearing the number 10 (can you f**king believe that?). A player of that magnitude, with that history, with such genuine affection for the club...there’s no reason why return of the King, episode 2, would be anything other than a good thing.